About 50 or 60 (?) people came to the Tinsel reading at Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre Tuesday night. For those who expected fireworks (or a Hank Stuever effigy burning!) I am so sorry to disappoint: The crowd was very interested in the book and gave me a very warm reception. (Um, it helps that the audience included a surprise: my mother the nun, Sister Joann Stuever.) I think people in Frisco who hate the book (whether they’ve read it or not; and you know who you are) are doing the exact right thing: Ignoring it, mainly. That’s straight off of page 5 or 6 in PR for Dummies. It’s also the cruelest thing you can do to an egomaniac author! So nice work, city of Frisco.
UPDATE 11/22: I missed this — Morning News reporter Jessica Meyers’ take on the reading.
Tyra Damm, a columnist for The Briefing, met me in the Barnes & Noble cafe beforehand for an interview. I only just met her, but I like Tyra. Unlike many Frisco relo residents, she pays close attention to local goings-on and how disconnected life there can feel, if you let it, but she’s also committed to the place and its people, and writes about them. She’s conflicted about the book — is it a slam or a tender portrait of Frisco? Is Frisco unique or is it the fullest expression of consumer-culture America? To all that, I have always said, and still say: both.
Jeff and Bridgette Trykoski came to the reading along with their posse: Verna Iraggi (Bridgette’s mom, always so sweet), plus her sister-in-law, Cheryl Iraggi, and nephew, Brayden, who has more than doubled in age and size since I first started the book. Plus Greg Trykoski and Christine Meeuwsen, who always makes me smile. And Caroll Cavazos came with her family (Michelle, Joey, little Lincoln) and Marissa — who was 10 years old at the start of Tinsel and now a beautiful teenager, looking quite cool!
And Tammie Parnell? Alas, a no-show — both nights. But do pick up the December issue of D for a fabulous portrait of her that’s running with the Tinsel excerpt. It’s out now!
I skipped the reading part of the Frisco event and went straight to Q&A, of which people had many questions to ask. I gave the mic to Jeff so he could answer the question everyone wants to know: What did the people in the book think of the book when they read it?
The answer to that is hot and cold. Truly, there’s one or more things in the book that each of the characters wishes I hadn’t put in there. But Jeff said he and Bridgette liked the book and found it to be very true, accurate; would he have done it differently, and included other things and left out others? Absolutely.
I’m asked about this a lot. It’s the most fascinating, Janet Malcom-y part of the process. But I’m trying very hard to no longer represent or speak for the characters’ feelings or words. It is up to them to tell the world how they feel about Tinsel. It’s their story as much as it is mine, but the book is my version of it.
Now a stranger thing is happening to us: We’re saying goodbye. Caroll really wanted to meet Tammie (she loved reading about her) and I hope they do meet someday. Jeff and Bridgette got to meet Caroll. One thing about both readings — and the last three days, as I ran between interviews and reading events — was that I didn’t have nearly the time to visit with any of them, something we’d grown so accustomed to over the last three years. They’re not used to me being too busy for them, and also that I no longer take notes on them. Now what? Now we remain friends and check in, the way people stay on one another’s Christmas card lists.
The best part of the Stonebriar reading was meeting new fans of the book. I was very cheered to meet two Frisco school librarians who loved the book and have been encouraging others to read it and think about it. I met the “Tinselectomy” group from Preston Trail Community Church, who are using the book to encourage people to scale back on the shopping and focus on Christmas’s essential message of spirit and people. They brought a camera crew!
And my favorite readers so far are a group of high school seniors in Frisco who read the Dallas Morning News article about me in their AP English class and decided that finally– FINALLY — someone had come to Frisco and sees it as they do. (There was apparently a raging debate in the class about me, the book –“how dare this outsider come here and make fun of our town” etc.)
No one at the reading seemed at all confrontational. THAT sort of thing they save for e-mail, some of which would curl your hair. Maybe someday I’ll share it. (News flash, according to one e-mailer yesterday morning: I am nothing but a “self-satisfied faggot” — yow! — who should put my book where the sun don’t shine. Um, sir or ma’am? Do you mean all the copies of my book or just one? They make much less ideal Christmas presents after that happens.)
Wednesday, I had breakfast at Cindi’s with my Uncle Louis and John in our customary way, with my mother, who seems to be doing quite well. I’ll see more of her in Oklahoma City on Nov. 30/Dec. 1 — she’s coming to that reading, too, from Wichita. (Groupie!)
I went to Stonebriar Centre (one last time?) Wednesday afternoon to catch up on some work and answer all sorts of e-mails. (Being on tour is mostly about answering e-mails and voice mails.) I ate at the California Pizza Kitchen and got a Chinese chair massage (my last?). In the food court, while I bought my Route 44 diet cherry limeade at the Sonic, I saw Santa Claus sitting there by himself, eating a Charlie’s sub. This is the “new” Santa, who replaced the Santa everyone loved. There are a lot of reasons not to like this new Santa (customers say he’s grumpy, has a weird hairdo, etc.) but I think his biggest mistake is sitting in the MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING FOOD COURT eating lunch like he works at a cell-phone kiosk or something. Dude, respect the fourth wall, y’ know? Of course, it’s exactly the sort of thing I would have put in Tinsel. I thought about joining him, but guess what — I don’t care anymore.
That’s a strange feeling.
Wednesday night at Legacy Books in Plano was everything an author could want: Amazing bookstore with a friendly staff, big crowd, and big sales. I read from some of my favorite parts of the book and people laughed and listened and then asked very good questions. I signed books for almost an hour.
But I am just a gnat on a buffalo compared to what’s about to happen at that store: Sarah Palin will be there on Dec. 4. They hope to get her to sign 1,000 books in 180 minutes. People won’t be allowed to ask her questions and they’ll be lucky if she has a second to make eye contact with each customer. Nevertheless, tickets are sold out! Gaaaaa! Do you know what it would mean to me to sell 1,000 books in a day? I offered to sign some of her stock. She can write “Sarah Palin” above the place where I would have already written “…says ‘buy Hank Stuever’s TINSEL today!!'” No dice.
The evening ended with a lovely little cocktail party at Karen and Larry Flannery’s house in Plano — parents of my dear friend and now master macaron-maker, Tim Flannery. After a few sips of Prosecco, I finally felt myself unwind after a solid week of OVERSTIMULATION and a sinful amount of thinking and talking about me, me, me, and going fast, fast, fast. Leave it to the Flannery family to relax me. I got back to the Hilton Garden Inn (my last Frisco hotel room? Ever?) and slept like a baby, at long last. Until, of course, 6:40 a.m., when Lanigan and Malone in the Morning called, right on schedule. (Good morning, Cleveland!)
I checked out of the hotel. I deliberately did not drive past Stonebriar Centre. For all I know, I could be back here in a few days, but I don’t think so. I will come back — to see the families, to shop. But I don’t know when.
Driving to Fort Worth, was reminded of that wise sage, Foghorn Leghorn, who once said: “That gal–I say, that gal reminds me of the road between Dallas and Fort Worth. No curves.”
But there are curves, along 121. And tolls — Dollar Rent-a-Car is probably going to have my ass on a plate for driving on a toll-tag-only route. Hank Stuever burns in effigy after all!
Tonight: TCU Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. Reuniting with some old friends. Tomorrow: Austin bound! I’m having a great time. My book is doomed, but it’s out there and I like telling people about it.